PERSPECTIVES ON PRAYER: PART FOUR
Principles for Supplication
In our intercessory prayer for others and petitionary prayer for ourselves, there are several biblical principles that we should strive to apply to make our supplications more effective. Here are ten:
1. Ask (Matthew 7:7-8; Philippians 4:6; James 4:2).
2. Ask in the will of God (James 4:13-17; 1 John 5:14).
3. Ask in faith (Mark 11:22-24; James 1:6-7; 1 John 5:15).
4. Ask specifically (Mark 10:51; Luke 6:12-13; 2 Corinthians 12:8).
5. Ask with thanksgiving (Philippians 1:3-4; Colossians 1:3-4, 11-12; Hebrews 13:15).
6. Ask in the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20).
7. Ask in fellowship (John 15:7; James 5:16; 1 John 3:21-22).
8. Ask frequently (1 Chronicles 16:11; Luke 18:1; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
9. Ask with others (Matthew 18:19-20; Romans 15:30).
10. Ask in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14; 16:24; Ephesians 3:11-12; Hebrews 10:19-22).
As with Jesus, prayer should be our method of getting things done. We must learn to depend more on our prayers and less on externals (people, circumstances, and things). “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive” (Matthew 21:22). “The prayer that God answers is the prayer that is to God the Father, that is on the ground of the atoning blood of God the Son, and that is under the direction and in the power of God the Holy Spirit” (R. A. Torrey).
We should also recognize the importance of corporate supplication: “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). There is a different spiritual dynamic when two or more agree in prayer. When you pray with others, make an effort to listen actively and stand united with them before the throne of God.
What About Unanswered Prayer?
Our God hears and answers prayers, but His answer is not always “yes” (even when it is, the timing and circumstances of His positive answers are often different from what we expect). There are times when God’s answer will be “wait” because His timing is not the same as ours and because He desires to produce the spiritual fruit of patience and self-control in us. Our faith needs to be long as well as strong.
There are other times when God’s answer will be “no.” When this happens, the reason may simply be that God’s plan is different from ours. Or it may be that God is testing our faith (consider Abraham, Joseph, David, and other biblical personalities). After praying three times for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul got a negative answer from God. This caused him to realize that God’s power is perfected in weakness (2nd Corinthians 12:8-9) and drove him to greater dependency on the person of God. When the answer is “no” we may later discover the reason. On other occasions, the reason may not be revealed to us this side of eternity.
How do we respond to a negative answer? First, we should examine ourselves to be sure that we have not fallen prey to one or more of the hindrances to answered prayer that will be discussed in next month’s Reflections. A mid-course correction may be in order. Second, if we are still unable to discern the problem, we must be content to rest in God’s loving character and greater wisdom.
The prayers we live on our feet are just as important as those we say on our knees.
The tragedy of our day is not unanswered prayer but unoffered prayer.
A problem not worth praying about is not worth worrying about.
Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.—J. Sidlow Baxter
The Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe.—Dwight L. Moody
Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!—William Culbertson
Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of Omnipotence.—J. Edwin Hartill
Prayer is a powerful thing, for God has bound and tied Himself thereto. None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience.—Martin Luther
Prayer is not an argument with God to persuade Him to move things our way, but an exercise by which we are enabled by His Spirit to move ourselves His way.—Leonard Ravenhill
He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.—William Law
Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance: it is laying hold of His highest willingness.—Richard C. Trench
There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.—Brother Lawrence
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